This Week in WSU Hoops

KEN BONE

A YEAR AGO as Washington State was heading into the Pacific-12 Conference tournament, the theme was why not the Cougars? We're not asking that question this week, even though Washington State is, as it was a year ago, the No. 11 seed. Despite that fantastic, feel-good win over UCLA to end the regular season, we know the answer: this 2013-14 season is about to run its course.

Though unlikely, Washington State could beat Stanford in Wednesday's Pac-12 tournament opener. But back-to-back wins over Stanford and Arizona State can't be foreseen by anyone outside of the Cougar locker room. The last time WSU won consecutive games was mid-December, when the Cougars beat Idaho, Pepperdine and San Francisco State for their only three-game winning streak of the season.

Idaho, Pepperdine and SF State aren't close to the caliber of Stanford and Arizona State. We've seen enough of these Cougars to know the season's end comes quickly.

Time for a fresh start. It's a foregone conclusion that athletic director Bill Moos will relieve Ken Bone of his coaching duties shortly after the season ends, even if Moos has yet to say it. It's sad to say, but the most exciting time of this WSU basketball season comes with the coaching search. It's hoped Moos will make a Mike Leach-like hire, although facilities, travel and finances make that a long shot.

I know there's hope that a Ben Howland or Bruce Pearl might be interested in taking a stab at Washington State. For the aforementioned reasons, I don't see that happening. It's more likely that a name assistant coach (Arizona's Damon Stoudamire?) or a proven coach from a smaller school looking to make a jump to the Pac-12 (Boise State's Leon Rice?) will become the Cougars next coach.

Back to the tournament, where the focus should be this week. And who knows? Maybe the Cougars found something Saturday that they can build upon in the Pac-12 tournament.

Win two, three or four for The Bone?


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Washington State (10-20) vs. Stanford (19-11): The Cougars won't be able to catch an unmotivated opponent here as the Cardinal are playing for their NCAA tourney lives. ESPN's Bracketology has Stanford in the tournament as a 10 seed, but a loss to Washington State could put the Cardinal in a precarious position.

Just to make sure, expect Stanford to want to rough up Washington State and solidify its dance card.

Stanford had its way with WSU during the regular season, beating the Cougars 80-48 in the Bay Area, and 69-56 in Pullman.

In the first game, the Cardinal began turning a competitive game into a debacle late in the first half. Leading 40-29 at halftime, Stanford outscored the Cougars 40-19 during the second half to hand WSU its second worst loss of the season. Josh Huestis and Anthony Brown scored 15 points each for the Cardinal. WSU's high scorer was Que Johnson with 21 points. This was one of many games Washington State played without DaVonté Lacy.

The second contest didn't fare much better for the Cougars. Stanford jumped to a 14-3 lead on the way to 39-24 halftime margin. WSU got as close as 47-42 midway through the second half, but Stanford reasserted itself and pulled away during the final eight minutes. Brown scored a career-high 30 points in this game, while Johnson was again WSU's point leader with 14.

Interesting about Stanford is that what you see is what you get. The Pac-12's No. 6 seed ranked from fourth to seventh in nearly every team statistical category. Chasson Randle finished No. 3 in Pac-12 scoring at 18.8 points a game, while Huestis was fifth in rebounding at 8.7 per game.

Should Washington State win Wednesday, the Cougars play Arizona State at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in a tournament quarterfinal. The two teams haven't played since the first week of the Pac-12 season, when Arizona State scored a convincing 66-47 win over WSU. Transfer Jermaine Marshall poured in 26 points to lead the Sun Devils.

Pacific-12 Conference tournament
At MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Wednesday games

No. 9 Washington (17-14) vs. No. 8 Utah (20-10), noon, Pac-12 Network

No. 12 USC (11-20) vs. No. 5 Colorado (21-10), 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

No. 10 Oregon State (16-14) vs. No. 7 Oregon (22-8), 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network

No. 11 Washington State (10-20) vs. No. 6 Stanford (19-11), 8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Thursday games
No. 1 Arizona (28-3) vs. Washington-Utah winner, noon, Pac-12 Network

No. 4 California (19-12) vs. USC-Colorado winner, 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

No. 2 UCLA (23-8) vs. Oregon-OSU winner, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network

No. 3 Arizona State (21-10) vs. WSU-Stanford winner, 8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Friday games
Semifinals, 6 and 8 p.m., Fox Sports1

Saturday game
Championship, 3 p.m., Fox Sports1

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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